From Internships to Full-Time Jobs

Project SEARCH Internship participants and supervisors

Project SEARCH helps individuals with development disabilities gain employment

Five recent high school graduates with intellectual or developmental disabilities have earned community jobs after participating in a one-year internship program at Atlantic Health System’s Newton Medical Center.

The internship program, sponsored by Project SEARCH, is a collaboration between Atlantic Health System, the NJ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Sussex County Educational Services Commission, the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities, and Abilities of Northwest Jersey Inc.

“Our success rate at placing participants in jobs is well above the state average, thanks to the great teamwork that we have created between the organizations,” said Norm Harnois, Employment Specialist for Abilities. “We have developed an incredible relationship with the team members at Newton Medical Center. President Bob Adams and all the department leads and mentors with whom we work are extremely supportive of the program and are an essential part of our success.”

Four of the participants will continue to work at Newton Medical Center in the following positions: patient liaison/greeter, environmental aide, food services representative, and support services associate. The fifth participant was hired by Mineral Springs as a laundry aide.

“Project SEARCH provides participants who want to work the opportunity to explore careers and develop transferable job skills in a professional environment,” said John O’Hara, Supervisor of Project SEARCH for the Sussex County Educational Services Commission. “Our goal is to help every participant achieve employment.”

The program includes an hour and a half daily of classroom instruction that focuses on employability skills, and three internship rotations.  

The current class of six interns started in September. Recruiting for the 2023-2024 class has started with scheduled tours and information sessions.

The internships are available to high school graduates with intellectual or development disabilities who have completed the credit requirements for graduation, certification, or completion.

Participants must be able to get to and from Newton Medical Center independently. For more information contact Karen Menke, Abilities Outreach and Care Coordinator at (908) 689-1118 or [email protected].

About Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is a one-year, business-led, unpaid internship program for students with disabilities in their last year of high school that takes place entirely at a host business site.

It provides students who want to work a chance to explore careers and develop transferable job skills.

The combination of instruction and immersion in the workplace prepares young adults with disabilities to make successful transitions from school to productive adult life.

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System is a not-for-profit health system, providing care for more than half of the state of New Jersey (12 counties and 6.2 million people) along with parts of Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area.

Powered by a workforce of more than 18,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, the system offers more than 400 sites of care, including eight award-winning hospitals, 23 urgent care centers and the Atlantic Visiting Nurse service.

Atlantic Medical Group, comprised of 1,000 physicians and advanced practice providers, represents one of the largest multi-specialty practices in NJ and Atlantic Health is the official health care partner of the New York Jets.

About Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.

Abilities of Northwest Jersey is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the employability and quality of life for people with different abilities by providing training and individualized services.

Incorporated in 1974, Abilities works diligently to create an inclusive community where individuals with different abilities are given the opportunity to reach their fullest potential in life.

Visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook at

Pictured at the top

From left are John O’Hara, Supervisor of Project SEARCH for the Sussex County Educational Services Commission, program participants Matthew R., Patricia O., Andrew L., Lily W., Michael B., and Evan A., and Norm Harnois, Employment Specialist for Abilities.

Email [email protected] to obtain a jpg file of the photo.

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